Italian director and designer Franco Zeffirelli, renowned for his extravagant opera stagings, has died at his home in Rome at the age of 96.

Zeffirelli was born in 1923 in Florence to Ottorino Corsi, a wool and silk merchant, and Alaide Garosi, a fashion designer, both of whom were married to other people, a fact that had a lasting effect on Zeffirelli. The future opera director’s name was chosen by his mother, apparently a mis-transcription of the word “zeffiretti” – meaning little breezes – heard in an aria from Mozart’s Così fan tutte. That the word doesn’t appear in the opera has done little to dim the legend.

His studies in architecture were interrupted by the Second World War but he got his theatre break in the late 1940s working with director Luchino Visconti, designing the set for the first production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desirein Italy in 1949.

Franco Zeffirelli Zeffirelli with Olivia Hussey while filming  Romeo and Juliet in 1967

While he is well-known for his film versions of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew(his first film as director, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) in 1967 and Romeo and Julietin 1968, and later...

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